By Marlene A. Zloza, Northwest Indiana Catholic

VALPARAISO – Challenging his audience to “live as missionary disciples,” facilitator Joe De Frier used actual loaves of bread to draw faithful Catholics closer to the Holy Eucharist during a three-part adult faith formation series hosted by St. Paul parish on May 8, 15 and 22.
“I want to open peoples’ hearts and minds up to conversion,” he said in introducing the series that focused on a deeper understanding of Christ’s Body and Blood by focusing on a complete history of the sacrament.
“We are looking at the Mass in a different way by looking at its Jewish roots, then putting the parts of the Mass together as they have changed,” noted De Frier, coordinator of adult faith formation at St. Paul. His sessions touched on the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Utilizing a series of videos, “A Biblical Explanation of the Mass,” presented by Dr. Brant Pitre, a research professor of scripture at Augustine Institute, a private Catholic graduate theology school offering master’s degree programs inspired by Pope John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization, De Frier explained today’s procession to the altar that opens Mass to Moses entering the tent (tabernacle), at which time the people “would rise up and worship, every man at his tent door.”
In the three sessions, De Frier went on to explain the origins of the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria, the Responsorial Psalm – likened to that sung daily by the Levites in the Temple – and the Gospel reading, which was derived from the Israelites standing when the Torah (Old Testament) was read.
“Catholics read more of scripture (at Mass) than other religions do in a year of worship – our daily readings at Mass offer much of the Bible,” said De Frier.
He termed the Liturgy of the Eucharist “very complex, like a tapestry of Biblical quotations,” and noted that the word ‘Mass’ means ‘missa’ – to be sent out into the world. “We’ve become prophets to the world,” De Frier said.
“The last words of the consecration that turns the cross into a sacrifice – the moment when Christ loves us and gives himself up for us, body, blood, soul and divinity,” De Frier said. “That’s why the priest elevates the host (and the cup), so you can adore, (and) worship Jesus, because it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Lord for his gift to us of his Body and Blood.”
John Szczepanski, a St. Paul parishioner, said he came to the series on the Eucharist “because I wanted to hear what the Church teaches about the Eucharist and the Mass. I believe in ongoing formation, in continuing to learn.”
Asked why the Catholic Church has not come together with other Christian faiths that also believe in the Real Presence, De Frier said more dialogue is needed, but could lead to unification. “The more we sit down and listen to each other, the more we’ll begin to realize that there is more alike between us than is different,” he suggested.
De Frier said the Sunday Mass is supposed to be “a holy moment of peace.” The Eucharist, he added, “is supposed to be both the source of our life and the end (summit). It is a moment of challenge to action, not unresponsiveness.
“The Eucharist is where the Christian community remembers the life and death of Christ, so we can continue his mission on Earth. That is the heart of the Eucharist, proclaimed daily at Mass,” he said.
“Today, many of us have remembered the bread, but forgotten the Body of Christ,” De Frier said. “Some people have received the Eucharist so often that it has lost its punch. Receiving the Eucharist should be the most disturbing moment of our week,” he added, challenging Catholics that “it is the people we must remember … the people who exterminated six million people, who sacrifice our children and teachers for automatic weapons and greater profits, who bombed two cities in Japan, who are building an arsenal of weapons that can destroy the world, who continue to hoard, lie, steal and abuse our children, and who ignore the hungry and homeless yet build mansions for themselves to live in.”
De Frier concluded the series with a prayer service that touched upon missionary discipleship, using actual loaves of bread to signify a pledge to follow Jesus in washing the feet of his people. “Will we wash their feet today? Will we be willing to pay that awful price?” De Frier challenged his audience as they broke off and ate pieces of the bread at each table.
The “Body of Christ,” he explained, “is the community” of those who love and believe in the Word of God and seek to follow him. “Gather us to be nourished and to nourish each other.”

Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The life and ministry of the Catholic Church is enriched by listening to everyone, especially those who are often excluded by society, and by including their experiences and perspectives, Pope Francis said.

“For the church is like a rich tapestry, made up of many individual threads that come from various peoples, languages and cultures, yet woven into a unity by the Holy Spirit,” he told a delegation from Catholic Extension.

The pope greeted the delegation during an audience at the Vatican April 26. The group included: U.S. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, chancellor of the organization’s board of governors; retired Arizona Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, vice-chancellor; and Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, who received Catholic Extension’s “Spirit of Francis” Award this year for her work providing care to hundreds of thousands of people at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I congratulate Sister Norma Pimentel,” the pope said, “for her service to the many men, women and children arriving at the southern border of the United States.”

Speaking briefly in Spanish, the pope said the border was “caliente caliente,” that is, a hotbed of activity with so many people “in search of a better future.”

He thanked Catholic Extension, which had a delegation in Rome April 23-28, for its work “providing assistance to missionary dioceses, particularly in the United States, and in caring for the needs of the poor and most vulnerable,” especially in Puerto Rico “following the various hurricanes and earthquakes which brought such devastation to the island in recent years.”

“By giving a voice to those who are frequently voiceless,” he told the delegation,”you bear witness to the God-given dignity of every person.”

As the entire church is journeying together on the path of synodality, the pope said, “listening to and including the experiences and perspectives of all, especially those on the margins of society, enriches the church’s life and ministry.”

“I am pleased to know of your concern to place those who are often victims of today’s ‘throw-away culture’ at the heart of the church’s pastoral activity; in this way, their voices can be heard, and all can benefit,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged them to serve others with “God’s style,” that is with closeness, compassion and tender love so that “God’s loving mercy becomes visible, and the fabric of society is strengthened and renewed.”

Our Sunday Visitor | Today’s Catholic

A recent Pew Research Center study caught the eye of many Catholics, despite the fact that the information the study conveyed wasn’t really news. Latinos are disaffiliating from the Catholic Church at alarming rates. The 2022 study reported that only 43 percent of U.S. Latinos identify as Catholic. That’s down from 67 percent in 2010. The statistic is a shock to those who are being told that Latinos are the future of the Church in the U.S.

But since the largest growth rate in the U.S. Latino population is not the immigrant community, the statistics are unsurprising for those who have been watching closely. The largest-growing sector of Latinos in the United States is now U.S.-born men and women. And that’s where the danger of secularization lurks. The Pew survey reveals that, while 16 percent of foreign-born young Latinos raised in a faith tradition are now unaffiliated, 23 percent of U.S.-born young Latinos now identify as unaffiliated.

What we are seeing play out among Catholic Latinos is the same story Catholic immigrants to the United States have lived for centuries. In communities abroad, especially countries where Catholicism was or is the religion of the majority, the parish church was not only the place for worship but the center of daily life. People frequented churches daily, visiting the chapels and memorials that had been part of their family life for centuries.

In the United States, however, the parish church is no longer the center of daily life. Some immigrant communities built their parish at the heart of their neighborhoods. And those communities were vibrant for a time, but, increasingly, they have disappeared.

Places, however, are not the only visible markers of the decline of Catholicism in immigrant communities. Often in American history, immigrant communities’ expression of their distinctly Catholic faith is muted in the process of assimilation to the broadly Protestant approach that characterizes the practice of Christianity in the United States. The proximity of a parish church to parishioners’ homes is one thing, but the tangible expressions of faith that mark immigrants’ identity are being quietly eroded as well in this process of assimilation.

So, what is to be done to help Latino Catholics keep the Faith? The same thing, in fact, that needs to be done to keep every Catholic a practicing Catholic: to invest in visible, experienced, incarnational expressions of faith that build communities and shape individual Catholics’ sense of common identity.

This can start, simply, with the Angelus. It’s a common prayer, a traditional prayer. The Angelus grew out of the practice of villagers uniting themselves in prayer with local monasteries. Pastors can ensure that their churches ring the Angelus bells morning, noon, and night. Parishioners should be reminded of the meaning of the prayer so that the bells really serve as invitations to prayer. Catholics can then build and live the practice of saying the prayer in their daily lives, knowing that they are joining their hearts and minds with their local communities.

In addition to the Angelus, pastors and parishioners should encourage and foster different communities of prayer in a parish. Invite people to join for morning prayer or offer to lead vespers several days a week for working people on their way home. Keep churches open so that people can come in to say a prayer, but have ready materials such as candles to be lit and prayer cards at hand to help guide seekers in their desire for prayer. Family rosaries can be a part of a shared prayer life in the home. Parishioners can support pastors to organize 40 hours or other periods of Eucharistic adoration.

Some pastors might balk or be reluctant to launch efforts that seem more aimed at community than evangelization, but they should think again. Card nights, bocce clubs, picnics, potlucks, and a host of other things that were part and parcel of parish life 100 years ago are part of the answer to our epidemic of loneliness. And these events can and should be coordinated largely by parishioners. To inspire joy, invite conversation, make connections, and introduce parishioners are the very beginnings of conversion.

The Angelus, regular trips for personal prayer to a parish church, and an avalanche of community events is the way forward. These are expressions of doctrine in daily life. For both immigrant communities and established Catholics in America alike, the lived connection to a local parish is the bulwark against secularization. In a way, it’s what we’ve always done. But surveying the landscape of life in modern America, there’s simply nothing else like it. And that will lead hearts and minds to Christ and renew the Church across our country.

We need communities of faith to better know and serve Christ, who is truly present in our parishes. It’s the way the Lord established the Church, that we might know Him together. No Christian is saved alone. Out of love for Christ, then, who calls us to be His own, let us renew our efforts of love in our parish communities.

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board is comprised of Father Patrick Briscoe, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, and York Young.